The topic of courtship has been on my mind a lot lately. One reason is this:
Our “baby” is getting married! And we praise God for the man who will be her husband! God continues to write stories that we could never think up on our own. (More on that in another post. 🙂 )
So if posts are a bit more sporadic over the next two or three months, it’s because we’re busy trying out all the great organizing ideas in All Things Are Ready. A September wedding will give Susannah and Peter a couple months to get settled before they head off on a mission trip to India in November. (It’s also one of the only dates when Peter wasn’t the photographer or a groomsman in someone else’s wedding!)
I’m also thinking a lot about courtship because it’s one of the topics I’m supposed to speak on at the TCHEN conference in San Rosa next month – Christian Courtship in the Real World.
It’s a topic that’s dear to me because I believe in it.
It’s also a topic that’s important to me because I think a lot of Christian young people have been burned by “courtship” and come out on the other side of an unpleasant courtship experience, bitter and disillusioned. It doesn’t have to end that way.
We’ve made our share of mistakes as God has led us through several successful courtships over the past eight years. Over the next few months I would like to post an occasional thought or two on the subject.
For today, let’s start with this simple truth:
God’s in control. We’re not.
We certainly have plenty of opportunities to figure this one out as our children grow up. We are not in control. God has given us the job of being earthly representatives of His authority in our children’s lives. That does involve a lot of governing, a lot of decision-making, a lot of discipline.
But it doesn’t take very long to know that we’re ultimately not in control – take the uncanny timing of really messy diapers as a simple, down-to-earth example of this fact. Or how about sleep schedules, interruptions, illnesses, accidents, disagreements and personality clashes? God uses all these childrearing challenges to sanctify us, to make us more like His Son.
God is writing the stories of our children’s lives. We’re primary characters in the story, but we’re not the authors.
The season of courtship can be a bit scary if we haven’t come to terms with this. We cannot be in control of a courtship any more than we have been in total control of any other aspect of our children’s lives. Yes, we will certainly exercise some level of authority. We may and should offer much wise counsel. We may even advise against marrying a particular person. But we aren’t responsible for creating the perfect courtship. We can’t control the situation, and if we try to, we will probably be getting in the way of what God is trying to do in our children’s lives – and in our lives.
God may bring along someone very different than we had envisioned. He or she may not be just like the people in our family. In fact, they probably shouldn’t be just like us. God is creating a new household with new missions for His kingdom. He’s not duplicating our family and our household.
A potential spouse for our child may come from a very different background. He or she may have a history that includes sins that God has forgiven and that we need to be ready to forgive as well.
We need to acknowledge as adults any children who are ready to seriously consider marriage, and then treat them like adults. If we’ve been slowly letting go of our authority and preparing our children for the responsibilities of adulthood, guiding adult children through the process of courtship will be much more pleasant for everyone. We won’t be tempted to micro-manage or exclude the courting couple from the decision-making process. We’ll be more prepared to let them go, and they’ll be more prepared to take the initiative in setting godly standards for their courtship.
I’m guessing that what I’m trying to say may be misunderstood by some readers. Please don’t think I’m saying we should just stand back and watch our kids do whatever they want when it comes to the opposite sex. God forbid! But we should want to be our children’s allies in this exciting season of their lives.
We lay the foundation for this kind of courtship while our children are young. If we want to be welcomed as guides when our children are ready to move toward marriage, we will remember from their earliest beginnings that they are moving toward godly adulthood and a lifetime of service to Him. We will keep in mind that God has written us into their stories, but He has not given us the responsibility of writing their stories. He will do a much better job than we could ever do, and He’ll give us great joy as we see those stories unfold.